Magazine article Workforce Management

Learning for the Sustainable Enterprise: How Investment in Learning Drives Long Term Competitive Advantage

Magazine article Workforce Management

Learning for the Sustainable Enterprise: How Investment in Learning Drives Long Term Competitive Advantage

Article excerpt


Sustainability is now a hot trend, and often it is associated with environmental responsibility. However, the environmental benefit is just one of the positive outcomes of a sustainahle approach. Sustainability is a strong business principle that simply means to sustain positive results over a longer period, for more stakeholders, while continuously reducing cost and negative impact of various kinds. Seen in this light, Sustainability is not such a revolutionary idea. It is simply an expansion of the time-honored approach of doing more with less: producing more beneficial business outcomes (productivity, revenue, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, etc.) for less cost and less negative impact (money, resources, energy waste, etc.}. While this may seem a bit idealistic, the recent economic crisis illustrates why it is important to look beyond short-term results and narrow interests. A global recession now looms as a result of an over reliance on short-term strategies and a failure to recognize the interconnectedness of various systems within a global economy.

Now that we have seen the domino effect that can occur, there is a new urgency within many organizations to understand their interconnectedness, and how their risks and responsibilities intertwine. Intense global competition is another reason that Sustainability has become such an important trend. Competition for resources, natural and human, is intensifying on a global scale. With the rise of developing nations there are expanded market opportunities and also expanded sources of competition. The only way that an organization can achieve sustained competitive advantage is to have a long term strategy. This has spurred many companies recently to develop long term talent management strategies, to ensure that they will have a work force with the right mix of skills to support future growth.

Another important by-product of competition in a global economy is the need to constantly innovate. Innovation is essential in a world where unpredictable changes come at us from every direction. Innovation can take the form of small improvements that reduce costs or improve processes in small degrees, or in the form of breakthrough ideas that transform entire markets. In either case, it is people that make the difference. People are the source of innovation; and people are the key to Sustainability. It is not surprising then that learning plays an important role in a sustainable strategy and it is very often mentioned in the same breath with "sustainable competitive advantage."

Supporting the Sustainable Enterprise

There are three main ways that learning, especially technologyenabled learning, supports the sustainable enterprise. …

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